Sunday, June 8, 2003

Rescues can use eatery leftovers


Waste not

By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service

The other night, Deborah, my marketing director, went to dinner at a fine steak restaurant. Declining the waiter's suggestion that she order dessert, she joked that he should eat it instead so it wouldn't go to waste. "Can you believe it," he said, "whatever doesn't get used each night gets thrown away."

Every day restaurants, bakeries, grocers, food producers and many other businesses trash perfectly good food while millions of Americans go hungry. It's not decent, and it's not necessary.

June 5 is the second annual National Hunger Awareness Day. There's something all of us in small business can do about hunger - regardless of what type of business.

Millions 'food insecure'

The U.S. government estimates that about 96 billion pounds of food gets thrown away every year. Some of that is "plate waste," but a good portion is edible, wholesome food. Meanwhile, more than 33 million Americans - including about 6 million children - were "food insecure" in 2001. Since then, 2 million more Americans have lost their jobs, so that number is likely to be considerably higher now.

"If you're a hotel catering manager, you probably prepare extra food," said Susan Hofer, spokesperson for America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest hunger relief organization, headquartered in Chicago (www.secondharvest.org) . "If those pans of food have never been served from, they can be picked up by a food rescue organization."

"Food rescue" is a growing trend. Food gets picked up, often by volunteers, from a business that has extra food. The food is then either delivered fresh to food banks or organizations, or packaged or frozen for later use, often as individual meals.

"More than 40 percent of the people we serve work for a living," said Hofer. "These are families who work in relatively low-wage jobs: the clerks at 7-Eleven, nurses' aides, janitors, the maids at the hotel that serve these fabulous feasts. Many are transitioning from welfare to work. For a family juggling schedules before the night job begins, having a prepared meal can be a great thing."

Can help bottom line

Helping alleviate hunger can be good for your bottom line. "It costs money to throw away food," said Hofer. "And there's the frustration of throwing away perfectly good, healthy food just because it doesn't look pretty."

You also might qualify for a tax deduction, especially if the "Good Samaritan Hunger Relief Tax Incentive Act" is enacted. That proposed legislation would extend tax deductions to small and family businesses for donating food.

What about liability if someone gets sick from food you donate? "The federal Good Samaritan Act protects companies that make good-faith contributions," Hofer assured me.

There are more than 200 local hunger relief organizations nationwide. Check the National Hunger Awareness Day website at www.hungerday.org to find groups in your community.

Rhonda Abrams is author of "The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies" and is a popular speaker for conventions, workshops and conferences. For her free business tips newsletter, register at www.RhondaOnline.com



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